The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

If you also own a shovel

If you fell out of it, it wasn’t love.

If you lost it, it wasn’t love.

If it waited for your sight, if you had to use your eyes, it wasn’t love, at least not at first.

There is no such thing as puppy love. There are no lovebirds.

Let’s say something poetically asinine, like love is a flower. I ask, what is a flower?

Do roses not have thorns? Do plants not feed on decay? Are there not many completely crucial elements required for flowers that you would not call beautiful, that you would not recognize, or think of as desirable?

Love. My mother has it. But not all mothers. Love. The same farm that produces milk also creates a lot of filth. And who wants that? Who wants to know the true, putrid cost of all the things we really like a lot? I can tell this with confidence, there aren’t many of us.

It is not love if you refuse to recognize the cost. I love my child, but he will not remain a child. He is not just his wonderfully sly side smile. There are smells that come out of him that would earn the respect of a skunk. I love him, as a child, all the while, I dream of the man he will be. A man who, by all means, may not want to be like me.

Love is different from comfort, or happiness, or joy, or appreciation. Love has a dishrag in its hand already, ready to clean up after all those things.

Do you understand what I’m trying to say? Is it clear just how rare true love really is?

It is hard work.

How many people have you met who say they love hard work?

That is how many people you have met who have loved.

By the Quiver

Dangerous language. What else is there?

Bad words. Try one on me.
Hello. To any enemy.
Goodbye. To the precious few who love you.
Alive. Really. A bad word. When you think about it too much.

A live what?

Emotions are objects that live in the earth.
On the ground. All around.
Straight arms off oaks and hard yet carvable stone.
Taxes off turkeys and twine made out of your mother’s hair.

But language is a spear.
Arrows dissecting the air.
Touching some poor soul. Far off. Over there.
Nothing they can do about it.
Vocabulary owes much of its origin to weaponry.
Warfare and posturing.

When discourse on discussions leads disagreements
to breed dissent against the didactic despondent diatribe
of how we describe our very overly literary lives.

Dis. A latin prefix. Means apart. Away.
Dangerous language. Bad words.

You there awkwardly outholding a vibrating bow.
Same as you. Once you release the string.

Standing there holding on to what you really mean.

But not the part of you sent off flying into the unknown.
That is what you call an arrow. Vocabulary. By the quiver.
With good enough aim, language is incredibly dangerous.

You get good enough with words.

No one may ever come too close to you again.

English Major

How we order dinner. How we tell our problems to doctors. And illustrate our final wishes. And record our innermost anxieties. We write letters to loved ones full with so many words claimed by neverending definition. How we know to call each other. How we declare things like war, and love, and all the salty sandwich meat in between. Looking at the world through eyes is one thing. But words, vastly another.

Literature is the microscope we hold up against the world to perceive details needed to articulate our needs. A microscope provides a distortion. A biased perspective. In your favor. Objects appear larger than they actually are.

If you fail to study the manipulations of your tools, you will never build a trustworthy conclusion.

And language, literature, we use words to orchestrate lives how bees use wax to shape hives. Not so much high art and the great smoking literary canon, but traffic signs, and menus, birth certificates and credit card contracts. They never taught this in school, because the system is full of people taught never to question the bias in their equipment. But all words are literature. How you tell your friends how you feel. Express intimacy and desire safely and respectfully out loud. The level of grace with which you handle power. How well you translate to paper.

English is not your least favorite class from high school.

It is the medium I am implementing at this very moment to testament the unfixed, transient flights of conscious thought going on in my mind. It is our cheapest and most prevalent form of time travel. As well as immortality. Playdough for plastic brains to squeeze in fists and get sick eating it. Which we know we aren’t supposed to do. It says so, printed in a dull black warning on a label, the word. No.

We didn’t have to. But words are how we decided to witness to and participate with the world. From the ground up. Whenever I encounter a doubt, or a negative thought about possibility or lack of potential, or hope, I’m always asked to look through a narrow little window of a word that I broke open a long time ago into a door. And more. I built a bridge out of it. And you’re right. That word. That choice. That night. If it is the destination, then this is dark as hell. And your doubts, they may be right. But if that word is one toe on a foot, or one step in a twenty mile day, or one day out of a two month journey, or two months of the best, most fulfilled, busiest and blessed years of my life, that’s different.

Depending on the lens you use, your microscopic problem might only appear to be huge. When in reality, it’s invisible to everyone but you. This is why we discovered language. To catch a glimpse of ourselves in it like a fun-house mirror, distorted into extremes.
It had very little to do with the pursuit of truth. Like any other tool.

Literature was not intended to serve the world.
We designed these words to magnify you.

The New One


Change is hard. To me, it seems rooted in unhappiness. The discontent desire to reshape their continents. And happy people draw maps. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Philosophically speaking, it’s a hammer. Or a wrench. If you look at the equipment to get an idea of the ideas they have built, it will always seem too simple. But it’s two different natures. Separate goals and agendas, distinct skeletal structures between the ideals that shape our tools and the things they can build. A hammer moves two ways. Hard and inconsiderate buried into wood, or sharp flat bunny ears that pull shy iron up out of its rabbit hole. If you’re a mover and a shaker, a builder, a creator, a social changer, an adventurer, an artist. You’re probably not the happiest. Dissatisfied. Discontent. You can argue me against it, but I’ll probably disregard all your words and take your passionate need to prove me wrong as its own kind of evidence. Sorry. I stopped stopping at people’s words a long time ago. Around the same time I admitted to myself just how much I will lie to control the idea people have of me. I did this amazing thing. I assumed everyone else was just as smart as me. And doing it as well. So I listen to chest swells, and deep breaths, and that thing where people look down and chuckle a couple times before they talk. Think of all the times you did that yourself. What true answers were you bypassing in those seconds before you landed on the placid, clean, decent one.

So whether you want to admit it or not, you’re not building a new house because you were happy with the one you had. You’re not plowing new fields if your grass was already green enough. Tree roots and boulders buried like land mines. Change is hard work. So are new worlds. America is defined by attracting all of the earth’s least satisfied residents. Argue with me if you want, but people who are truly content, do not get on that boat. They never left Europe. You did not travel then, and you really shouldn’t now, with any reassurance of how soon you’ll be back again. Along with luggage, you are taking your life up into your own hands. Seeking out new lands. Because the one you’re leaving behind did not fill you up. It wasn’t enough. Some of us are hammers. And some of us are nails buried so deep we’ll never be pried up. And a good enlightenededish person will have learned over time to be a bit of both. To seek balance. And let change do what it has always done. This planet is changing all on its own. The revolution, is how to live here and still leave it alone.  

It’s an oversimplification, I know. But if hammers and nails were as complicated as houses, I’m not sure we’d ever get one off the ground. If you’re an artist. A revolutionary, which is simple nowadays. The revolutionary is a good mom, and a patient man, an understanding boss, a forgiving friend. If you’re trying. If you have a dream. Or wishes. If other people are small talking and I catch you staring off into the distance. I know you’re like me. You’re a little bit unhappy. Just enough. To know this way of life isn’t enough.

The same hands that put down the new novels and poetry and short-storied scriptures of tomorrow will have cut the boards and set the nails of the new shelves in the libraries that will be needed to hold all of them. A hammer. The pen. The beauty of this rusty little literary invention. Language is like an old house our ancestors built for us. A decrepit mansion we all inherited equally just by being born human. Maybe a room or two have been kept clean and livable by the devoted satin robe wearing monks of academia, but none of us could keep termites out of the joist in the basement. Mold buried deep with moisture in real hard oak. Floor sagging in places and roof given out altogether in others. No one lives here full time anymore. And how we approach this condemned inheritance sort of sets us into two distinct categories of personality.

And I know I don’t need to write it again. But it is the discontent who want to tear it down and start over. Happy people are scrubbing floors and dusting mantles. But the ones who have glimpsed the future walk the halls with hammers. Prying up nails and taking out hardwood and stained glass and musty furniture while we still can.
We may yet need them.
For the new one.  

Real, mysterious, legally binding and recordable magic – Old Journals

Some absurdities are witnessed, so twisted, offensive, perverted,
they must be laughed at. If not, if stared at stone face unmoved,
steel, taken serious, you’d turn ill, go mad. So laugh, smile,
express vulnerability in staccato breath chuckles.

Absolve the absurd. To fixate on the word is to live in a title. How idle.
No definition. Argument. Language travels unravels long storied mystery,
romance, and some talk so long about the song they forget to dance along.
Create. Define. It is necessary for there to be words that cause people to cringe. Emboldened, condescending letters indicative of sins. We live everyday. Make decisions. Avoiding feeling fear over words, short bits of code humanity accumulated over time,
able to reach far inside a gut and tear it up. And that is power.
Real, mysterious, legally binding and recordable magic.
And humans own it. It is ours. Offenses rain down in showers.
Baptizing, exercising, digging ditches and gullies
after how much the sacrament has stolen.
But between me and you, these empty spaces
are not to be feared, but filled in.

Artistic Mission Statement – Section 1

My life goal is to organize and express an artistic method for pulling words like democracy, equality and art down out of the clouds. Through writing, public speaking and activism, I want to help people learn to distrust the bias of their initial gut conclusions, and seek a word’s truest most quantifiable meaning before using it. I aim to cut the distance that separates words from definitions, and expand the divide between categorizing something and understanding it. We should blame language long before we blame our neighbors, or facts. Before settling on platitudes concerning the spiritual status of the universe, we need to learn more about the tool we’re using to measure it.

Before such words

Is the poetry to be so simple?
One broken up line of broken cracked prose to impersonate poetry.
Bring up pretty bright color alongside some sad dark one. Poem.
Unexpected detail, a twist, two twists, spaced middle and end. Poem.
A difficult day to explain. A story hard as a rock to tell. Confess.
Confess it all.
Poem.

Butterfly found dead in the grass.
Hollowed out in body, left connected in the wings, painted still faded color.
Witness. Read a larger work. Not a poem. Every poem. Metapoem.
All art is killed and devoured just being recorded. Drawn.
Passing through a sore hand, the story a dead insect tells Man.
The paintings on the walls of the animals who were dinner.
The clouds. Green ground. And red. Deep red. Blood. Metapoem.
Recording of the first ever muse: guilt.
Poetry to redefine poetry.
Metapoem.

The long winded verse of words written into steps on a trail.
Meticulous. Repetitive. Climbing to a climax. To witness life,
poetically, but from sharp, vital perspective. Call it prose.
Falling as sudden as it rose into a deep trough marked resolution.
Every sight and destination along the way. Prose.
The sun setting. Cold nights full with falling stars
and the garbled singing voices of owls. Prose.
Again, as soon as the sun rose, up to clouds and rain and more walking too.
The sole pursuit under every tortured step. Prose.

Please. Do not forget the leaps once taken to cross the hurdle.
The deep creek. The fallen tree. The inherent poetry off blind leaps of faith.
And the daily. The progress. Forward movement climbing and dropping.
The endless purposeful footsteps of prose.
Journeys taken before adventure had a name.
The art we created, carried,
the stories and poems we wrote,
before such words had ever been written.

The roots of worlds.

I love words. I know it doesn’t take long to get me wrong, but try. Words are my passion, they are my paint. I sometimes have to shake the words out of my head just to see the world in light and colors and shapes, because it shows up better in letters. I love them. Yet I blame them. Words are the source of so much division. Ignorant about the only tool we use to pierce ignorance. Like cut flowers. Like shaped lumber. Like nails. We forget they were already buried before we plant one deep into the other, just trying to hold something together. We do not know the parameters of a word’s origin, so we are unaware of the cracks and flaws within. Let me dig up an example.

How about trust. What a trap we made trust into. I trust you, followed by a thousand different not to’s. Some expectation for perfection gets laced into that word’s particular function, so that trust is sure to break whenever and however you do. This hopeful, hypothetical, projected form of trusting is a dam you’ll soon see busting, not in fissures or spiderweb white spreading in concrete flats. It will come apart all at once and leave you washed out and puddled on top of a drowning town. Trust. Is a thing you leave behind for someone you love because you know you will die, and leave them. Trust. Is hopes and expectations. A promise. Bound and emphatic. Many different meanings writhe within the term we love to hold over other people’s heads. And then there is my pessimistic definition. Trusting everyone to fail. Trust being the bit of energy I’ve kept reserved to get through that day. So that we can love and trust one another on the other side of our greatest failures. I don’t give it out often. But when I do, I plan for it to be thrown back in my face. I trust it to. If there is a contingency in you I will not have the strength or time or patience to handle, I don’t trust you. I just watch. And wait. Trusting inevitability in your place.

Or how about life. Living. Breathing. Chest beating. Hunger eating. Bleeding. Bleating. Seeding and singing and clinging to this idea that we just live for however many years and then turn off. This is not the case. From the time you were an embryo stuck like a cut flower in the warm water of your mother’s vase, your body was sending signals to cells to die. Your life depends on it. A body’s ability to die on a cellular level is as critical as its choking for air or starving for food or withering with no water. Life. So expensive. How many animals died so you could make it out alive? How much death has life eaten? Plant flesh, animal muscle, bird eggs, thrashed wheat, ground corn. I don’t care if you’re a vegan or if you’ve gone so far as to starve yourself not eating, your body is converting life into death daily to avoid converting life into death more permanently. Just because humans manipulated tomato vines into delivering fat juicy wombs full with nutrition and liquid all ripe, does not make it any less life. What is life? What is the meaning of life? Life is good. Life is hard, but not as hard as knowing life is death. Death is life. These two dance under covers like lovers and we come forth in droves because of it.

Or how about good. Is sunlight good? Growing plants and warming planets and shaping orbits. Flesh melting radiation and electronic crippling solar flares and any planet without a filter stripped bare and burnt flat. Is garlic good? Try a handful.

The world, the universe, as we have known and continue to learn it, exists in spectra. Timing and quantity and temperature are most effective at taking a nice neat clean definition and mutating it into its opposite. Words cut from roots will wilt on the shelf in just a few days, no matter how often you change the water, no matter the light you leave it in. The roots of words are definitions. And are all gripping ground like buried iron, like living lumber, like uncut flowers. Meaning does not follow us into the house like a dog. It waits in the woods with wolves who do not view domestication as a destination, but a trap. Unforgiving and ever-evolving as the prey gets wiser, learns to steps lighter.

I am a writer. I am invested in words. And I am telling you, should you or should you not choose to get me wrong, words are nothing on their own. Shapely breath. Tickled chords in the back of your throat. A long time ago we began throwing sounds at trees and rocks and colors, waiting to see what would stick. Wood stick. Worlds tick like clocks counting up or down, dependent solely on what you want to see most. Only no. Worlds don’t tick, they roll, like dough, rounded in the dented palms of suns, suns rounded in the dented palms of singularities, singularities rounded, compounded, surmounted by the clenched fist of that great, one and only, universe gripping, paper space ripping, unslipping singularity that centers us all. All existence. Cradled like a baby in the bent arms of a star that shines out gravity like it was light.

And I see human beings, discounting newborn theories of everything, because the words just don’t come out right.